Obama hails breakthrough on financial overhaul

08:31, May 21, 2010      

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U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday that Wall Street has failed to block the nation's financial regulation reform, as the Senate voted to finish debating the bill, paving the way for a final vote on the landmark legislation.

Speaking in the Rose Garden, Obama said that financial industry lobbyists tried to kill the bill -- and then water it down -- but those efforts "have failed."

The 60-40 vote came after Democratic leaders and Obama administration officials assuaged the concerns of a few key holdouts. Under Senate rules, debate is now limited to 30 hours, though a final vote could come sooner.

Voting yes were 55 Democrats, 3 Republicans and 2 independents. Voting no were 2 Democrats and 38 Republicans.

This was the second try that the Senate voted to end the debate. Lawmakers failed to clear the way at a vote of 57-42 on Wednesday.

Obama said that there is more work ahead, but he will ensure the final bill is effective and responsive.

"This is not a zero-sum game where Wall Street loses and Main Street gains," Obama said.

"Our goal is not to punish the banks," he said, "but to protect the larger economy and the American people from the kind of upheavals that we've seen in the past few years. Today's action was a major step forward in achieving that goal."

The bill, which will be the biggest overhaul of financial regulations since the 1930s, aims to curb Wall Street's high-risk practices blamed for the global economic meltdown of 2008, solve the systemic risk of the "too big to fail" problem among financial firms, and create a consumer protection agency to better protect Americans.

It will also try to ban commercial banks from trading in speculative investments and impose state interest rate caps on credit card issuers, among other changes.

The U.S. House passed its version of financial overhaul in December 2009. The Senate's bill was proposed by Christopher Dodd, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, earlier this year.

Under the U.S. legislative procedure, the Senate's version should be coordinated with the House' bill before it can be sent to the President for signing into law.

There are two amendments left before the Senate final passage. One would ban commercial banks from carrying speculative trades with their own money. The other would exempt auto dealers from oversight of a new consumer protection bureau.



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